Rachel Weisz and Daniel Craig in "Dream House." (George Kraychyk )
In the uneven new horror-thriller "Dream House," Rachel Weisz and Daniel Craig portray a couple who have just moved from the big city out to the country where they hope to raise their two daughters in peace.
Despite their newfound comfy domesticity, things seem a bit odd for the family right from the start, not least because Craig goes into town and talks to other people while Weisz never makes it more than a few steps off the porch. It's not a spoiler to say that it turns out a family was murdered in their house five years earlier and Craig might not be quite the innocent out of his element he seems to be.
Directed by Jim Sheridan from a script by David Loucka, "Dream House" feels like the filmmakers went rummaging through some kind of bargain bin of storytelling spare parts — a touch of "The Amityville Horror," a piece of "The Shining," a bit of "The Sixth Sense," and why not throw in a little "Shutter Island" too while we're at it?
Sheridan can't ever quite get hold of the tone and falls back on a default dreaminess (the little girls play a shaky rendition of Beethoven's "Für Elise" more than once) that never quite convinces.
With its telegraphed twists and clunky pacing, the film would be unbearable were it not for the fine trio of Craig, Weisz and Naomi Watts, all more or less slumming. Craig in particular makes his character's transformation from happy family man to troubled loner, sometimes within the same scene, at least vaguely believable. (And perhaps signals whom this film is really made for, what with no less than four gratuitously shirtless moments during a story set in a snowy winter.)
As his collar gets progressively more dingy and hair less finely coiffed, Craig's quicksilver ability to turn from refined to churlish reminds why he was such an inspired choice for the role of James Bond.
It sort of needs to be mentioned that, indeed, in real life both Weisz and Craig each left long-term partners and recently got married. The strictures of the film don't quite allow for a sense of watching two people really falling for each other, though in their few calm-before-the-storm scenes together the pair do have an easy chemistry that seems to disarm and lighten them both.
"Dream House" might not be a memorable film, but it will always be remembered for playing into the personal narratives of these two ever-compelling modern stars. It's not necessarily their "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," but it shouldn't prove to be their "Gigli" either.